You likely started your HVAC business out of a love for the industry, not business operations. But, as any company grows, the focus of every business owner must shift from their love of the service to serving their employees and clients.
That’s why we’ve compiled these 10 business operations tips. We think these great techniques are worth trying at companies large and small. Running a business is hard enough. These tactics will help you keep your HVAC business operating smoothly so you can focus on growth.
In this article, we will cover three key areas of operational focus:
Practical steps to improve the foundation of your business.
Shifting your mindset can impact how your team operates together.
Big theories to help you create meaningful change.
Part I: Structural Improvements
1. Write an HVAC Business Plan
Homework? Already? Yes, but writing out a business plan can save you headaches down the road.
As you grow, especially if you’re looking to take out a business loan or attract investors, you’ll want to take the time to write out a traditional business plan. Be sure to include most, if not all of these nine sections:
- Executive Summary
- Company Description
- Market Analysis
- Organization and Management
- Service or Product Line
- Marketing and Sales
- Funding Request
- Financial Projections
Even if you’re not looking for an HVAC business partner or investors, it’s useful to create a business plan early in the lifecycle of your company.
A standard business plan could be well over a dozen pages long. So, if you don’t have time right now to create an in-depth document, you could just create a lean-startup business plan.
What’s a lean-startup business plan? It’s generally a single page declaration of the high-level goals and objectives that you plan to hit in the early stages of growth.
“[Lean-startup business plans] focus on summarizing only the most important points of the key elements of your plan. They can take as little as one hour to make and are typically only one page,” explains the U.S. Small Business Administration.
A lean-startup business plan format includes these sections:
- Key Partnerships
- Value Proposition
- Key Activities
- Key Resources
- Customer Relationships
- Customer Segments
- Cost Structure
- Revenue Streams
Check out the U.S. Small Business Administration’s site to download examples of both types of business plans.
2. Create Systems and Processes Before You Need Them
“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” – James Clear
Don’t wait to begin laying out systems and processes for your HVAC business. Growth is important, but growing a business with flaws will grow those flaws as well.
Sometimes operational shortcomings only appear after a business becomes larger and patchwork fixes begin to fail.
It’s easier to develop operational systems while your business is small and agile. If you grow too big with flaws hiding, they could become serious cracks in the foundation of your business. But no matter if your business is young or well-established, it’s never too late to put effective fixes in place!
Checklist for Implementing New Systems
- Identify Area of Inefficiency
- Common Areas Include Dispatching, Billing, Customer Service
- Identify and Assign Ownership
- Meet with Assigned Implementation Owner to Discuss Improvements
- Allow Owner to Create Next Steps of Implementation
- Roll Out New System by Communicating Expectations to Team
- Rinse and Repeat as Necessary!
3. Focus Your HVAC Business on Category Killers
Too often, we see businesses attempt to diversify and add services or products to boost lagging sales numbers.
That attempt to satisfy customers with new and shiny offerings is entirely unnecessary, and may ultimately damage the longevity of the business.
If your core offerings aren’t attracting the business you’re expecting, there’s a reason. Danny Meyer, New York’s famed restaurateur, suggests everything you offer should be a category killer.
This means that everything you offer in each category of your business can go toe-to-toe with the best services out there.
So, if your services aren’t better than your competition, don’t pivot or seek to offer other options. Focus on that service and find ways to better your offerings.
Think about the amount of service contracts you’re selling. Or your contact rate for fresh leads. See if you can shrink the wait times that your customers experience when calling. Or tighten the arrival windows for service visits. Everything you offer can be tuned and elevated.
Since you’re in the service industry, there’s most likely a human component to lagging sales or dwindling fresh leads.
Ask yourself these questions to help improve your offerings:
- Are your field technicians personable?
- Are they skilled? Certified? Trained on the latest equipment?
- Are your sales reps and office staff friendly and conversational on the phone?
- Do they promptly return calls?
- Are you frequently engaging with your audience via email, reviews, calls, mail, etc.?
- Do you have eye-catching vans?
- Are they freshly cleaned and undamaged?
- Do you market your services? Have your marketing efforts and campaigns shown ROI?
- Do you trail your competition with copycat marketing materials?
- Have you refined your brand voice?
- Have you built out your social media marketing strategy?
Our FREE HVAC Summer Social Media Posting Guide can help! Customize these 90 social posts for your business’s Facebook page and share daily. This engaging content will boost your social media presence!
4. Establish a Communications Strategy for Your HVAC Business, Your Team and Your Customers
Streamline Customer Communications
- Find software solutions to aid customer communication.
- Allow customers to track arriving tech’s GPS location.
- Create customer profiles that document previous repairs.
- Itemize each customer’s onsite hardware.
- Upload repair photographs to profiles.
- Empower your customers to come along on the repair journey.
- Give customers access to repair information.
- Accelerate repair times. And decrease field tech time on site.
- Track more robust customer information to help dispatchers send technicians with specific skills.
It’s easy to only focus on your customers. But, there’s no reason you can’t extend that same consideration when communicating with your staff as well.
Streamline Internal Communications
- Communicate expectations to staff early and often.
- Alert employees to upcoming systems and process changes.
- Plan regular intervals for internal communications.
- Increase communications around any new process rollouts.
These steps will help make your team more comfortable around any operational changes. You don’t want to make anyone on staff feel blindsided by change. Communicating expectations around changes will help smooth the adoption across your entire team.
“Good communication is essential. Involve any affected employees in the process as early as you can. Create an official timeline for the change to be implemented, and make it clear what happens at each step.” – TheReceptionist.com.
Part II: Cultural Improvements
5. Accept and Deliver Feedback
Every leader wants to be kept in the loop. But remember, feedback is a two-way street. So, keep your staff aware of your work, and how you view their work as well.
This doesn’t mean you need to be an open book, but be forthcoming with your feedback. And regularly reveal the health of your HVAC business. It’s important to everyone working there.
Clear feedback systems allow simple issues to get resolved quickly. This means that you’ll be able to head things off before they become bigger issues.
We’ve found that managers often dread delivering yearly feedback to employees. Almost as much as employees dread receiving it. This is often due to a lack of structure in feedback throughout the year.
The annual feedback review process should not be the only time an employee hears how they’re doing. This is the same for management, this shouldn’t be an annual event. No one deserves to feel blindsided by feedback. And this is true for feedback received by management as well.
Increase feedback touch points throughout the year to address any issues early and to praise employees for their hard work!
Customers aren’t forthcoming with feedback. And, soliciting feedback isn’t always met positively from customers either.
This is why you need to be attentive to all customers’ needs and requests. Because, their feedback might not appear as directly as you’d like.
Train your office staff and field techs to walk customers through all fixes needed and performed. If you set an open tone with your customers, you’ll likely see feedback roll in more freely. A satisfied customer is far more likely to share both positive and constructive feedback with you.
Following a service visit, you can provide a link via text for a customer to leave a review on sites like Google and Facebook. Make the process as painless as possible for customers to provide feedback and reviews.
You’ll no doubt see more reviews trickle in each month. And from there it’s a matter of tuning your service to increase your five-star ratings!
6. Build your HVAC Business with Transparency – Inside & Out
Harvard Business Review surveyed 800 global business executives when creating the report “Using Transparency to Enhance Reputation and Manage Business Risk.”
90 percent of the executives surveyed suggest “increased business transparency leads to better-informed decision-making across the entire organization”
We also know that transparency in business operations makes you more capable when pivoting for economic shifts and dealing with angry customers.
But HOW exactly can you improve internal transparency? Here are a few simple ways to help everybody stay on the same page:
- Weekly staff meetings to share overall business performance and operational updates (staffing changes, new technology, key learnings, etc.)
- Monthly one-on-one check-ins with every employee to allow open and direct conversation
- High-level financial updates and larger expenses shared with your staff
Applying transparency to performance tracking can also help prevent your employees from feeling micromanaged. With these expectations clearly communicated, you’ll help free up leadership to focus on big-picture projects.
And you can extend that same level of transparency to your customers:
- Upfront billing
- Clear itemization on invoices
- Straightforward quotes
- Less sales pressure on field techs
If you build your HVAC business operations on a foundation of transparency, you can create a competitive advantage. And having transparent operations helps foster employee advocacy and retention. This can also lead to an increase in customer satisfaction and evangelism as well!
7. Operate Your HVAC Business with Good Assumptions and Attitude
Nothing poisons the well faster than thinking the worst of others.
It’s so easy to feel burned by decisions or circumstances outside your control. The sludge of past wrongs can affect our actions moving forward.
As a business owner, and leader, you set the tone for your entire organization. This is why it’s so important to always lead with a mindset of charitable, or good, assumptions.
In short, think the best of others. Assume that the people you surround yourself with have good intentions.
When things go sideways, or not as planned, it’s up to you to assume the best of your staff, your customers, and your vendors. It’s all up to how you approach resolution and reconciliation. Your staff and customers will sense how you handle roadblocks, so it’s important to lead with a good attitude!
Energize Your Workforce with Positivity
It’s especially important to have a charitable attitude towards employees and staff internally. Because if you assume the best in people, it will give you the space to recognize each person’s unique contributions and abilities – helping them to grow!
This opens you up to capitalizing on your existing workforce in a much more dynamic way. You will begin to identify strengths you may have missed.
Employees will feel comfortable and encouraged to speak up about clarification on tasks and morale will rise!
Part III: Theoretical Improvements
8. Start with Why
Everybody knows what they sell. Most know how to sell it. But, few actually know why they do what they do.
Simon Sinek, unshakable optimist, presented one of the most popular Ted Talks ever recorded with nearly 55 million views. He reveals the golden circle of business and how great leaders inspire action.
As a business owner, it’s your job to know WHY your business exists. You must have a firm grasp on why you do what you do before you can hire people and expect that same passion from them.
Passion Drives Profit
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek
If your motivation to start a business is profit, you will likely attract workers that have their paycheck as their main motivation. This isn’t inherently a bad thing or necessarily a problem.
But, you and your workforce require some form of passion for the work itself, not just the compensation received for completing the work.
Operating a business with a strong understanding of why you do what you do will radiate that same passion to your workforce, and attract those with a similar mission.
That why could be something as simple as helping those in need.
In HVAC, this is a common why. People calling your business are genuinely in need of a solution or fix to help return their lives to normal, or at least return to comfort.
If your understanding of a job well-done is related more to the satisfaction found in helping your customers, your workers will align with that why.
9. Believe Leadership is its Own Skillset
Rewarding your best workers with a management position requires more investment than just a bump in salary.
Your employees know their craft and the business. But, managing people is a new skill, and it should be honored as such.
Invest in management training for the staff that you wish to promote into leadership positions. This will help them feel supported as they grow and develop these new skills.
A well-equipped leader will also play a key role in streamlining your operations. So be sure to keep them informed on what is happening in your business!
You can help build an inspired leader, which creates a positive cascading effect on the employees below that new manager. You’ll also show your staff that there is a career path available. Not just a bump in pay, but a road map to actual career growth.
This helps create a strong dedication and loyalty to your company within your workforce. You can help make your leadership naturally decide to become your greatest ambassadors.
Download our comprehensive hiring guide with all the tips and tricks of finding, hiring and retaining the right people!
10. Constant Gentle Pressure
This concept is key when running a business. Applying constant pressure forcefully to your operations and people is a recipe for disaster. If you apply inconsistent gentle pressure, you’d be sending mixed signals.
And, if you’re constantly gentle without asserting yourself, you’ll get walked all over.
Constant, gentle assertion allows you to demonstrate what you want done, how you want it done and when it’s to be done. Then others in your company will pick up and follow your lead.
Saltshakers and Business Leadership
Danny Meyer’s book Setting the Table is perhaps one of the greatest books written on business operations. In it, he shares a formidable lesson taught by his mentor, Pat Cetta.
Cetta explains: “Your staff and your guests are always moving your saltshaker off center. That’s their job…
“Until you understand that, you’re going to get pissed off every time someone moves the saltshaker off center. It is not your job to get upset. You just need to understand: That’s what they do.
“Your job is just to move the shaker back each time and let them know exactly what you stand for. Let them know what excellence looks like.”
It’s your consistency that helps you ensure your business gets back on track, no matter what comes your way..
Staff and customers will shift the direction of your business, just like moving the salt shaker. It’s your job as a leader to ensure your business makes it back on course. Just constantly shift the saltshaker to where you want it to go.
Over time, and quicker than you might think, everyone in your organization will pick up on your example.
Many of these business operations tactics blend into one another. That’s because together they create a web of best practices that you can use when growing your HVAC business.
It doesn’t have to be difficult growing from fledgling to fleet. But it will require trust, empathy and communication from the very beginning and throughout your growth.
Create great HVAC business operation principles from the moment you write your business plan. This will help you take your business from a one-person startup to a multi-unit empire in no time!
And if you really want to supercharge your growth, see how FieldEdge can help!